Murder charge announced in death of fighters’ stepdaughter

National Sports
Aniah Haley Blanchard

FILE – This undated file photo released by police in Auburn, Ala., shows Aniah Blanchard. Human remains discovered in a wooded area have been confirmed as belonging to Blanchard, a missing college student who was the stepdaughter of well-known UFC fighter Walt Harris, Alabama authorities announced Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019. (Auburn Police Division via AP, File)

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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a man being charged with capital murder in the shooting death of the stepdaughter of a well-known UFC fighter, authorities announced Monday.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said at a news conference that the capital murder charge is being filed against 29-year-old Ibraheem Yazeed in the death of Aniah Blanchard, a 19-year-old Alabama college student and stepdaughter of UFC fighter Walt Harris.

Yazeed was already being held without bond on a kidnapping charge in the woman’s disappearance. Prosecutors said the charges are being upgraded after Blanchard’s remains were discovered in a wooded area and positively identified.

The medical examiner determined Blanchard had died from a gunshot wound, Hughes said in announcing plans by his office to pursue the death penalty against Yazeed.

Blanchard was last seen Oct. 23 in Auburn, Alabama, at a gas station in Auburn, Alabama. Her black Honda CRV was found abandoned days later more than 50 miles (90 kilometers) away at an apartment complex in Montgomery. Police said her blood was found in the car.

“This case has absolutely shaken our community to its core,” Hughes said.

Hughes said investigators believe Yazeed is the lone person responsible” for Blanchard’s death and abduction.

Two other people have been charged with hindering the investigator or helping Yazeed dispose of evidence. Hughes declined to discuss those cases Monday.

A judge has issued a gag order in the case to limit attorney comments to the media. An attorney who represented Yazeed in the existing kidnapping case did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the upgraded charges.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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